The New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) union says the “test-and-punish” emphasis in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget — including a push to more than double the weight of state tests — is not research-based; would increase stress on students; and would rob parents, teachers and school boards of their voice in local education decisions.
New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.
NYSUT said its analysis of Cuomo’s proposal shows the plan flies in the face of a growing body of research challenging the use of standardized tests for high-stakes decisions about teaching and learning.
“The governor’s irresponsible plan would hurt students by intensifying the state’s fixation on standardized testing — in direct contradiction to what kids need and what parents have asked for,” said NYSUT President Karen Magee. “His ‘billionaires’ agenda’ ignores the real needs of students. To improve on our already strong public education system and its quality teaching force, the governor should be supporting teachers, not scapegoating them.”
Magee added, “What’s crystal-clear is that the governor has not been listening to parents and teachers. We don’t need a greater emphasis on high-stakes testing. There’s no outcry to create greater incentives to ‘teach to the test.’ I haven’t heard any parents say, ‘I want my child to focus less on real learning and more on ‘fill in the bubble’ state tests.’ It seems only the governor and his hedge-fund friends want to subject the state’s most precious resource — its children — to even more pressure from high-stakes tests.”
Meanwhile, she said, the governor is holding school-aid runs hostage to his attack on public education and the teaching profession. She reiterated her call for a sustained commitment to what all students need.
“Our public schools need a state budget that corrects years of neglect and inequality, and that invests much more in those communities serving the most vulnerable in our society.”
NYSUT Vice President Catalina Fortino, who oversees NYSUT’s Department of Research and Educational Services, said a growing body of research challenges reliance on state standardized tests in high-stakes decisions.
An April 2014 study, for example, by the American Statistical Association (ASA) found that value-added measures (VAM) based on standardized tests do not directly measure potential teacher contributions toward other student outcomes.
The ASA report said, “Most VAM studies find that teachers account for about 1 percent to 14 percent of the variability in test scores, and that the majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences that reduce quality.”
The ASA noted this is not saying teachers have little effect on students, but that variation among teachers accounts for a small part of the variation in scores. The majority of the variation in test scores is attributable to factors outside of the teacher’s control, such as student and family background, poverty, curriculum and unmeasured influences.
“The governor wants to silence the voices of parents and educators,” Fortino said. “He is ignoring the research, and what educators and democratically elected school boards know is best for their children in their own local communities — less testing and more learning. It cannot be clearer: The governor’s approach is wrong for students and public schools.”
A resolution passed Jan. 24 by the NYSUT Board of Directors emphasizes that point, saying, “We affirm NYSUT’s commitment to teaching — not testing — as school’s primary activity.”
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